State of Decay 2 is an overly familiar cart full of zombies

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I hope you like collecting groceries, because State of Decay 2 is basically a game of endless trips to the shops. The doomsday fantasy is one I enjoy, and few games approach it from this exact angle: a third-person do-it-yourself surviveathon in an open world. In a better universe, you could call it DayZ with direction, or The Walking Dead with freedom. But based on the time I’ve spent with it so far, about 10 hours or so, it feels like that intention has been clouded by antiquated ideas about what keeps players invested in a videogame. This is less an undead apocalypse, and more a town of timers, clocks and, unfortunately, bugs.

My review is still in-progress, so please consider this an opening salvo. For those unsullied by the first State of Decay, it was an open world in which you controlled a bunch of survivors. You set up a HQ and scavenged to keep your struggling commune fed, watered and healthy. You switched between controlling different survivors, and you had to make use of this because otherwise they’d get fatigued. When Jack gets tired, take over Jill. It helps to explain the previous game because the sequel is very similar, to the point where I sometimes feel as if I’m just playing it again.

There are things to like. Driving from one end of the map to the other in search of a specific piece of kit, or embarking on a mission to clean up an infested house (or to destroy the new “plague hearts” which produce dangerous, infectious zombies) can feel like a small journey. Especially if you’ve forgotten something vital, like extra petrol for the car, or explosives for the upcoming battle. You end up taking detours, rooting around in rusty old caravans for the things you need, rather than going all the way home. In these moments, you can forget about its shortcomings and simply focus on short-term problems. I need to get into the gun shop, but there’s a massive tank zombie in the car park. My van is packed to the brim with medical supplies, but the engine is broken. I want that building as an outpost, but it’s occupied by another group of survivors.

However, I’m finding that it doesn’t want to give you the time to appreciate these moments. It’s a demanding world in which resources bleed away from your group’s stockpiles at a punitive rate. New infestations pop up too often. And quests are frequently time-limited. Far from adding to a sense of “up against the wall”, it too often feels like a game of whack-a-mole. I’m repeating tasks I could have sworn I’d scribbled off yesterday’s To Do list. We just got some ammo. How is it all already gone?

And then there are the bugs. Characters flash in and out of existence, passengers warp about inside my car, the car becomes lodged in a barrier, the camera twists about-face when I hop over a fence, my character glitches out and becomes embedded in the road, like he is wading through tarmac. There is a frequency to these bugs that will annoy many players. I’m less bothered by them than I am with the general design of the game. But I’ll get into that (along with other complaints) in my full review.

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Right now, I’m still having an OK time, despite the above problems. However, I already know that this sliver of enjoyment is limited. And I sometimes fear it’s only there because few games offer the zombie apocalypse in this particular format: a third-person open-world Sims with zombies. The success of the first State of Decay always felt to me like a matter of it having no competition within its niche. That suspicion continues here. It’s also Windows 10 only. And that’s rubbish.

Our full review will be up on Monday, and I recommend wariness if you’re itching to buy it, because there are other annoyances I haven’t mentioned (most notably the wonky, clumsy melee combat). But also other potentially praiseworthy elements, like the new co-op mode (see the video above). But until then, I’m off down the shops again.

26 Comments

  1. Evan_ says:

    I wish the “Windows 10 only” caveats appeared on the very start of such articles instead of the end.

    • ColonelFailure says:

      To be fair, at some point a statute of limitation should be placed on such caveats. Windows 7, as lovely as it may be, is almost 9 years old while Win 10 is coming up on its third birthday.

      • Gillador says:

        I think that by ‘windows 10 only’ they mean it is not available on steam (or anywhere else except the windows store). And that to me is a big issue.

      • brulleks says:

        Windows 10 might be a lot younger than Windows 7, but frankly it behaves like 7’s in-bred, cock-eyed, and (functionality-wise) locked-in nephew. The fact it’s newer has absolutely no bearing on whether I, and many others, would want to downgrade to it for home use when there are still a million and one games available on 7. Windows 10 ‘exclusives’ are just digging their own grave in terms of optimal sales.

        • Artist says:

          Thanks for sharing your well-formulated thoughts. How do they matter regarding to the topic?

          • dontnormally says:

            It was a direct reply to a comment that said

            > Windows 7, as lovely as it may be, is almost 9 years old while Win 10 is coming up on its third birthday.

            and its content was a direct reply to the content of the message it was a direct reply to

            In fact, in terms of directness of replies, it was about as direct a reply as a direct reply could be.

        • UncleLou says:

          “Windows 10 ‘exclusives’ are just digging their own grave in terms of optimal sales.”

          That doesn’t matter. Not nearly as much as it matters for Microsoft that people adopt Windows 10. Which is the sole reason why Microsoft is making PC games again, anyhow.

          So, basically, you can have these games on Windows 10, or not at all. Not that I think that’s great – not the least because the Windows 10 store is an inexplicably amateurish disaster, but that’s how it is.

          That said, SoD might be a similar exception like Quantum Break was, for a variety of reasons.

          A much more valid reason – imo – not to buy it is because they never really fixed the first one, or rather, they did, but sold the patch at full price. Now *that* is something that should be mentioned…

      • Quickly says:

        Why do RPS commenters so frequently ignore the existence of Windows 8/8.1? There are still those who prefer it, and it’s only two years older than W10 at this point. If the article is accurate it’s also lumped into the same incompatible basket as other W10-only games.

        • Artist says:

          Well, must be the same people that still value Win ME, I guess? ;)

          • brulleks says:

            Perhaps because it was a reply to the comment about Windows 10 exclusives?

        • Doug Exeter says:

          Same. I purchased 8.1 a few months before 10 came out and I love it. I have no want to upgrade at this time. It works great. Thankfully each one of these exclusives that I’ve been looking forward to have ended up being not worth the upgrade. I don’t have any problems with Win 10 but I’m not done getting my moneys worth out of 8.1 especially since I enjoy using it and has given me minimal problems.

    • Avioto says:

      The chances it will come to Steam are quite big, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

    • UncleLou says:

      It’s been the current OS for several years, it is better than its direct predecessor, it was given away for free for ages, and it’s the most wide-spread OS used by gamers, at least “Western” gamers.

      Helpful hint somewhere? Yes. But a caveat in a more prominent position is as necessary as pointing out that you should have a keyboard or a mouse. It will just bore the majority and can easily be mentioned elsewhere.

  2. Astaa says:

    Not interested until it hits steam.

  3. Avus says:

    I am ok with Windows 10 but I HATE Microsoft Store with a passion. Why the fxxk I want to buy something at a store with so many limitations?

  4. DigitalSignalX says:

    They didn’t do themselves any favors by releasing this game early to streamers and youtube personalities. If anything, it’s been a very rude awakening to a title my gaming clan was anticipating, and has earned it’s place firmly in the “wait for several months / patches” category.

  5. necurbanapauperem says:

    Oh dear. Does it have a console? Can I use the console to cancel the timers?
    I mean, I was going to wait until steam anyway because of the windows store unless there was any other conceivable way of obtaining it. But it’s now a choice of later or never… I’m leaning toward never now tbh as I’m quite capable of imagining my own tension thank you very much.

  6. Qibbish says:

    My only wish for the full review is that you emphasize how your points of complaint compare to similar issues in the original title. For example, “most notably the wonky, clumsy melee combat” — is this worse than the wonky, clumsy melee combat in the original, or a new low?

  7. Elric666 says:

    I really enjoyed the first one. The only mayor annoyance being an occasional bug that my follower would sometimes not return to base after an assignment, requiring me to push them through the gate to be able to complete it. I also wish it had made more use of dark, claustrophobic areas, like tunnels, parking lots or large office buildings. There were too few and too small internal spaces.
    But other than that, I had a blast playing it. So just giving me more of the same, but better, is fine by me. Hope they fix the bugs.

  8. racccoon says:

    I wanna play, waiting for a beta invite please, thanks

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